Jobs and electricity supply must be protected in Northern Ireland

Jobs and electricity supply must be protected in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley is being urged by Prospect union to protect jobs in the electricity sector following power sharing talks collapsing.

Electricity pylons

Prospect senior deputy general secretary Sue Ferns has outlined concerns about the impact of proposed closures of key parts of the region’s electricity supply chain in a letter to the secretary of state.

The development comes after prime minister Theresa May visited Northern Ireland earlier this week in an attempt to secure a power sharing deal for the region. However, during her visit she failed to address security of electricity supply.

Prospect is calling for the government to urgently address this key issue as Kilroot power station and generating units at Ballylumford are facing closure. There are also redundancy plans at NIE Networks.

The combined closure of these units means that Northern Ireland faces the possibility of losing 36% of its generating capacity by the end of the year. It will also mean the loss of highly-skilled jobs in an economy that has already suffered from job cuts in other sectors.

In the letter to Bradley, Ferns warns that Northern Ireland is facing the possibility of major power cuts within months.

She also stresses the need to urgently: “Inject some common sense into energy policy in Northern Ireland, which would include taking a more holistic approach to this complex issue. If we are to develop and maintain a secure, reliable and sustainable energy system fit for the future, it is essential that policy is not driven solely by a desire to cut costs in the short-term without due regard for the consequences”.

Ferns also warns that the government must consider the impact that Brexit and the creation of a hard border could have on Northern Ireland’s electricity supply.

Even without the looming power plant closures, an electricity generating capacity deficit is predicted by 2021 leaving Northern Ireland reliant on imports from the Republic of Ireland. This import system depends on membership of the Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) which may be unable to function if the UK leaves the EU’s Internal Energy Market.